Ms. Higher Ed
- 730 GMAT (expected)
- 3.79 GPA
- Undergraduate degree in communications from a small liberal arts college
- Was accepted to Penn, Michigan, Columbia and Boston College School of Education – “thought I wanted to get my master’s in Higher Ed”
- Work experience as an account manager for a big data startup in Boston
- Extracurricular involvement Honors societies, sorority, communications honors society, student rep for committee on academic affairs, student affairs, alumni affairs, class agent for alma mater, mentor and alumni director for startup accelerator – “incredibly engaged and involved undergrad”
- Completed startup accelerator in Boston
- Goal: To get into EdTech, VC or VP at a college. Interested in the future, and business of higher education
- Letters of recommendation from three Harvard Business School grads
- 24-year-old American female
Odds of Success:
Harvard: 20% to 30%
Yale: 30% to 50%
Sandy’s Analysis: You are the Post Script to the woman above you. Smart liberal arts major (3.79 GPA/magna cum laude), work in a technical setting, viz, “account manager for funded big data startup in Boston,” with instincts toward business, in your case, “completed startup accelerator in Boston.” The woman above went to small Ivy (top B-schools love those) versus your own path which began at a Public Ivy (totally OK) and ended at “a small liberal arts college.” That is probably OK, and could be a plus if your college is selective. Not likely to be a big deal, in any case.
Just for the record, and to complete the college part of this — and for the edification of our readers — you note . . . “incredibly engaged and involved undergrad. Honors societies, sorority, communications honors society, student rep for committee on academic affairs, student affairs, alumni affairs, class agent for alma mater, mentor and alumni director for startup accelerator.”
Being engaged is good, but not all extracurrics are equal.
That kind of student affairs, alumni affairs, student rep on the council stuff is not as powerful to B-schools, especially H and S, as having an impact beyond yourself and helping poor people, victims, and untouchables. We DO get the picture: You are a really active, friendly, engaged, and no doubt an effective person who likes being on committees. Those are traits that will do you well anywhere, but not as well on Planet Adcom as you might think.
Your entire story, with the exception of working as a account manager for funded big data startup in Boston, points to Ed School, not B-school.
Something you have already road tested by applying to Ed schools! My tough love is minimize all that collegiate stuff and stress what you also do, work for a really cool BIG DATA company with HBS grads around to write your letters of recommendation.
That is the anchor of your application. You may need to do some fancy footwork around what you do as an account manager (which is an elastic term) and we don’t expect you to become a slide-rule toting big data geek or executive, but you need to stress the business aspects of your profile. Your heart still seems to be in Ed School.
You say your goals are “EdTech, VC or VP at a college. Interested in the future, and business, of higher education.” Well maybe, but an interest in the future of higher education is what Ed schools are for! You did say you are also interested in the business of education. But we don’t believe you, and there is nothing in your record to support it. I think the picture we draw is that you are interested in working on a campus, and talking to alums. That is not how an education/business wannabe presents to B schools.
And just what should you say?
I would say you are interested in consulting to education “systems and institutions,” along the lines of wonderful jive like this, from the McKinsey website:
We help transform education systems and institutions to improve individual, social, and economic outcomes.
We serve a wide range of education clients spanning school systems, vocational, and university education. Our work focuses on the most pressing issues facing educators today:
- System performance transformation
- Education for employment
- Talent and performance management
- Administration and operations
- Institutional improvement
We lead strategic planning efforts to launch, scale, or transform the performance of large educational institutions, such as universities or foundations. Our efforts span improving organization effectiveness, to developing new growth areas, to creating strategic partnerships and alliances.
One must hand it to McKinsey, that aria almost gives you chills, especially if you are in the mood to be thrilled by generic boilerplate, and I often am. At any rate, those are goals for a future MBA who is interested in Education, and not being VP of Cafeteria Services and Vending Machines at East Overshoe College.
Besides, your classy, sensible background and endless committee work just sound like a future consultant. Finally, and we are getting subtle, the fact that you are purporting to be interested in Education but instead are working for a cool big data start-up (instead of some charter school, TFA, or struggling educational consultancy) is the rich, artificial frosting on top of (and sometimes in the center of) many HBS cupcakes. B-school adcoms will also like this story because getting a consulting job post graduation frequently happens.
Prediction: You will have a two-step path. You will become a consultant and you will get into education of the sort you want: as a B-school adcom! It’s a very common path, just Google the adcom heads of most major B-schools.
But we are getting ahead of ourselves, first get that 730 GMAT and then execute as per above. Have those HBS rec writers say they could not organize big data without you and they fully support your goal to become a transformative and systems-changing consultant.
There may not be enough do-gooder fairy dust for Stanford, but your chances at HBS are pretty good. Also take a look at Tuck, which is deeply your kind of place, and Kellogg, Michigan, etc. All the “humanist” schools.